When Seth Appert coaches his first Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men’s hockey game in October, he will have new assistant coaches helping him. Appert announced Tuesday that he won’t retain assistant coaches Frank Bretti and Jeff Matthews.
Appert, who was hired by RPI April 21 to replace Dan Fridgen, cited the need for the program to begin anew as the reason he decided to let Bretti and Matthews go.
“I talked to the team about having a fresh start, and having that opportunity,” said Appert, who spent nine years as an assistant coach at the University of Denver. “We needed to take advantage of it, whether they’ve been a player that has struggled, or a player that’s had success. You don’t get many chances to get a fresh start, a second chance. That’s the opportunity the players have.
“To give them that fresh start, I thought there needed to be a new staff in place, with no preconceived notions of players, and strengths and weaknesses and things they’ve done in the past, or haven’t done in the past. It’s important to judge them from this day moving forward.”
Appert said informing Bretti and Matthews of his decision was difficult.
“They were very professional about it,” Appert said. “It wasn’t personal. I have a lot of respect, and I like both Frank and Jeff. [But] this is the once chance to come in fresh. I didn’t want to be in this position a year from now where we said it didn’t work out as a staff, or they find out that they didn’t like working for me or the cohesion amongst the three wasn’t there. To try it out and test the waters for a year and figure out it’s not going to work would have put the program behind by a couple of more years.”
Bretti and Matthews had been Fridgen’s assistants for two seasons. Before joining RPI, Bretti was the head coach at Iona from 1997 to 2003. Iona dropped the program after the 2002-03 season.
“I want to focus on the positive,” Bretti said. “I had a great experience here at RPI. When a new head coach comes in, he has to feel comfortable with his staff.”
Matthews, who was unavailable for comment, is a 1995 graduate of RPI. He played on the Engineers’ last ECACHL tournament title team in 1995, Fridgen’s first year as head coach. Prior to returning to his alma mater, Matthews was head coach at Northfield Mount Hermon School, a prep school in western Massachusetts.
Appert said he hopes to have new assistants in place soon.
“There’s obviously some people that I’ve thought of. I’m not going to make any public comments on that until we get some people in place,” Appert said.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for the Schenectady Daily Gazette.